I saw Santa while Lyfing a cardiac nurse home from her shift at Ronald Reagan hospital. It looked like it had been a rough night. Or two. Or maybe he had a bad case of jet lag from the flying saucer he just disembarked from.
We all know most homeless look like Jesus. Probably because they believe they are Jesus. There is a leathering process that transforms a human deportment into a general raison-like appearance.
They are pickled over time.
What set apart the one I saw on Wilshire just east of Veteran Ave in Westwood last week was his Christmas sweater, red pants, Santa hat, and … red bucket.
Especially the bucket.
Leaves one to wonder, right? About a lot of things.
To begin with, was he early for Christmas or was this a year-long gig. Have things tightened up that much now that Santa had to pawn off his reindeer and huff it on foot? Was the trickle down drought now finally visible in a metric we can all comprehend; namely, that Santa’s big red bag of toys was reduced to a beach bucket?
So, yeah, for that and many reasons more, I decided to call him Santa.
Most of the wardrobe homeless adorn themselves with isn’t known for its custom tailored fit, but the sweater in question looked like an oversized cracker jack tattoo had been pressed on him with a prison modified steam iron.
He had a dysthymic liver that lent a rolling-pin like effect to his otherwise emaciated form. It looked as if he had grown fat eating himself.
Poor Santa the cannibal. And oh pity these times we find ourselves in.
But like I said, it was the small red bucket that set him apart from the 82,000 other men, women and children who slept on the street that night* was the small red bucket.
*(stat from Weingart Center census that also concluded 254,000 are at least partially homeless each year)
But Santa was a true American. Determined to pull himself up by the boot straps. An by his Olympic level of concentration, it appeared as if he was headed somewhere very important.
Maybe late for an appointment. Perhaps to plant heirloom tomatoes or volunteer in a turn of the century fire line.
Regardless of his intended destination, it gave me pause. For even Santa had to carry a moonlight job. What has the world come to?
I wonder if he like most of the people in the back of my car have two part-time gigs that give just enough hours to not be full-time and pay him just enough not to be enough- falling in that genetically enhanced crack where he can’t be a statistic in a sound byte and not poor enough to be poor enough to qualify for some kind of assistance program. That kind of poor. Oh, Santa. No wonder he has the bucket.
There’s a lot of homeless that patrol the wild DMZ around the Westwood V.A. They have what you call perimeter duty and haven’t been relieved for some time.
So they stand their post like any dutiful soldier.
Waiting to be relieved.
Mostly these invisibles carry out their billet from hooches and make shift foxholes along the embankment of the San Diego Freeway. They like to dig into the high ground or find good cover in a thicket of weeds.
Still keeping the world safe for democracy and cashing their SSI deposits in mini-malls check cash stands on Venice Blvd in Palms which is at least two bus rides away.
If they have an I.D.
If you see Santa on your daily commute, salute him once for me. Last I saw him he was headed east looking for all the good boys and girls.
Making his list and checking it twice….